Opening someone else's stadium is always a tough task. But D.C. United should be up for that task, having played the Houston Dynamo only a few short weeks ago. However, Ben Olsen has had the same welcome problem most weeks this season: players whose performance deserves a chance a starting knocking on the door. But will the two newest candidates, Hamdi Salihi and Andy Najar, get the nod? Against Houston, my gut feeling is no.
The most encouraging news in the build up to this game was from practice yesterday, that all three of D.C. United's injured center backs are making progress in their return to health. Ethan White is now practicing fully, Dejan Jakovic is sprinting, and Emiliano Dudar is at least participating somewhat. I feel confident that one of them will be able to start, allowing United's defense to revert to its most comfortable form. Which one of those three do I predict will get the nod? Follow me and find out.
Two players have made cases to start in recent weeks: Hamdi Salihi and Andy Najar. However, I do not think that either of them will get the start. For this game, against this opponent, their skills may be better used coming off the bench in the 70th minute, rather than trying to bang bodies with the Houston defenders for the full 90. But once they are on tired legs, I think these two players could be brought in to damaging effect.
Out of the three central defenders, I think that Dejan Jakovic is the most likely to get the start this week. It seems as though Dudar is just a little too far away to risk it, and Ethan White needs some more practice time under his belt at this point. However, I do think that White may make his debut on the bench for this game, giving that back line depth should anything happen.
The rest of the lineup is what you expect to see and what has worked will for United so far. With these guys on the field, I see a bench of Joe Willis, Chris Korb, Ethan White, Branko Boskovic, Hamdi Salihi, Stephen King, and Andy Najar.
What do you all think? See Andy or Hamdi starting?